Auckland, April 2, 2019
The terrorist attack on innocent Muslim worshippers in Christchurch on March 15, 2019 was one of the darkest acts in New Zealand history.
However, in the weeks since that day, we have also seen great light in our country.
During my visits to Mosques and Muslim community groups across the country, Muslims have universally told me that they have been overwhelmed by the love, practical support, and solidarity that their fellow Kiwis have demonstrated.
New Zealanders have come together to express our grief, and to show our solidarity with the Muslim community. We have united to reject the hateful ideology that inspired this attack, and we have begun the long journey of healing.
Strongly affirming our values of compassion, tolerance, and manaakitanga is a crucial way we can make sure New Zealand is safe for everyone.
Inquiry and further steps
The Government is determined to find out how the attack could happen, and to make sure it can never happen again.
We have agreed to hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch attack.
Royal Commissions are reserved for matters of grave public importance, and this inquiry will look into the suspected terrorist’s activities leading up to the attack.
It will also look at government agencies and departments, including the intelligence community, to understand what opportunities they might have had to prevent the attack.
The Royal Commission will identify what steps can be taken to make sure this never happens again.
Changing Gun Laws
One way to protect New Zealand is to make sure we have safe and effective gun laws.
That’s why, six days after the attack, the Government announced a ban on military style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles. Parts used to convert other guns into military style semi-automatics are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.
Every weapon used in the Christchurch terror attack is now banned in New Zealand.
Parliament is united on the need for this change, and I want especially to thank the National Party for its immediate support for the Government’s actions.
There has also been widespread support amongst the firearms-owning community.
Fish and Game, the New Zealand Deerstalker’s Association, Hunting and Fishing, and Federated Farmers have endorsed the reforms, and I want to thank them for their pragmatism and solidarity.
Firearms do, of course, serve legitimate purposes in our farming and hunting communities, and those responsible gun owners will not be affected.
The new laws will have exemptions to allow the use of 0.22 calibre rifles and shotguns commonly used by farmers and hunters.
Questions on Social Media
Since the attack, New Zealanders have used social media to share tributes, and words of comfort. We have turned to social media for updates and information, and we have organised memorials and vigils attended by thousands.
Social media can be used as a force for good, as we’ve seen since the attack.
But sadly it can also be used as a force for hate.
That’s why the Government is asking tough questions about the role social media has played in the attacks themselves.
A part of of the Government’s job is to make sure New Zealanders are not exposed to traumatic and distressing material online, or material that incites violence.
As the Prime Minister has said, we need to think globally about how we can stop hateful materials appearing and reappearing on social media platforms in the first place.
We have made our expectation clear, that internet companies and social media platforms do all they can to ensure the video is not distributed.
New Zealand will be a leading part of the global conversation on stopping the spread of hate on social media.
The Government is taking every action to ensure the safety of New Zealanders. Our threat alert level remains “high.”
This means that the police and security services will provide extra protection, at the border and in public places. It is important that we maintain a high level of vigilance in the aftermath of an attack like this.
We have witnessed the worst terror attack ever in New Zealand, and our history has changed forever. But we can make sure it never happens again.
Most fundamentally that takes resolve and unity. It takes the kind of resolve and unity that New Zealanders have shown in abundance in recent days.
With your help, love can and will triumph over hate.
Michael Wood is elected Member of Parliament from Mt Roskill and is Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Ethnic Communities Minister.